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As Mitt Romney cruises towards the inevitable – the GOP Presidential nomination – the former Massachusetts governor continues to pick up endorsements from those who once opposed him and called him names.
Michelle Bachmann became the latest to throw her support behind the presumptive nominee, calling Romney “the last chance we have to keep America from going over a cliff.”
“For all of America, this is a very simple proposition this November: President Barack Obama or President Mitt Romney,” Bachmann said while campaigning with Romney in Virginia. “Very easy.”
What is unclear is whether or not Bachmann’s endorsement will bring along tea party Republicans who backed her short and unsuccessful Presidential run.
Some conservatives may be waiting to see if another former contender – Rick Santorum – throws his support behind Romney and if that nod is enthusiastic.
GOP insiders say Santorum will endorse Romney but they are not sure if it will be a strong one or a tepid hand-off like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich issued earlier this week.
Santorum wants concessions from Romney – including strong language on social issues in the GOP platform and will make his case in a meeting with his former opponent.
“Santorum wants strong positions against abortion, among other things, in the platform,” a former Santorum aide tells Capitol Hill Blue. “His endorsement is coming but it will come at a price.”
Romney aides aren’t sure Romney is prepared to pay the tab. He rejected demands from Gingrich for help in retiring campaign debt and a chance to speak at the GOP convention in Tampa. Gingrich, in return, toned down his endorsement.
“Santorum needs to be careful,” says a long-time GOP consultant. “He might have a future in the party if he plays his cards right but Romney holds all the aces.”
And while Romney gains more endorsements, new polls showed him tied with incumbent President Barack Obama in two of three battleground states: Ohio and Florida.
Romney advisers feel their candidate has momentum and can continue to gain ground on Obama if he moves to the middle and doesn’t alienate voters by kowtowing to the extreme right-wing fringe of the GOP.
“It’s a balancing act,” says a GOP strategist, “and it’s a delicate one.”
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